The Lone Wolf—and Other Myths about Terrorism That Won’t Go Away

Oct. 22 2021

Yesterday, Ali Harbi Ali—a British subject of Somali background—was formally charged with the murder of David Amess, a veteran member of the British parliament who was stabbed to death last week while meeting with constituents. Ali had previously been called to the attention of Prevent, a UK program for identifying and “deradicalizing” individuals likely to become terrorists. Ayaan Hirsi Ali comments on the misleading and unhelpful ways the case has been discussed by the British public:

For many, the ethnicity and heritage of Ali Harbi Ali were wholly irrelevant to his alleged behavior. Acknowledging that Ali is of Somali background, we were told, is racist and xenophobic. He must only be identified as British. As someone who was born in Somalia, I find this absurd. Of course a suspect is not a murderer because he has a Somali background. But denouncing facts as racist—especially when . . . police and security services believe he may have been inspired by al-Shabaab, [the al-Qaeda offshoot] in Somalia—forces a dangerous ignorance on the public.

In a liberal society, it is appealing to think of suspects of Islamist terror as solitary actors. . . . But while individuals such as Amess’s murderer may conduct their attacks alone, they still emerge out of communities or networks of like-minded individuals, whether in-person or online. They learn from teachers, imams, or instructors the radical ideas that inspire their violence. This is not to say that their entire family or community is extremist—only that these individuals find and are exposed to people who are. Little is known about Ali’s background, but we can be certain that he did not plunge a knife into a total stranger, possibly picked at random, wholly of his own accord. Someone or some group inspired these actions.

[Another] fallacy that must be confronted is the belief that all forms of extremism are created equal and should be treated as such. Under the British counterterrorism Prevent program, Islamism is lumped together with other forms of extremism, such as far-right extremism, and handled with a similar approach. But while right-wing extremism is a threat that should not be downplayed, its causes and motivations are totally unrelated to radical Islamists. They should be considered distinct and handled separately.

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More about: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Immigration, Radical Islam, Terrorism, United Kingdom

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror